What do you think of the foundation?

Hi all,

So - this is perhaps not the best time to start this discussion, but then again maybe it's absolutely the best time. This is a call to foundation members who are happy, unhappy or disaffected to say what they think the foundation should be doing that it isn't, shouldn't be doing that it is, and generally what you've been unhappy & happy with over the past number of years.

Me first!

I think that the foundation should be more involved in conflict resolution and policing the tone of the community. I have talked to too many people who don't read pgo, or have turned off individual blogs, don't use IRC any more, or avoid certain mailing lists, because they are unhappy with the tone & content of discussions & posts. If someone is behaving in a way which is negatively affecting a significant portion of the GNOME community, the board should be the place to go where you can complain, and have your complaint publicly recorded (in the minutes of a board meeting, for example) with anonymity, investigated and evaluated, and if necessary, have the guilty party censured and/or punished. Currently, this social policing role has been completely ignored by the foundation and its leaders.

I think that the foundation should be more frugal, and I expect the board to transmit the frugal values to the membership. I was a supporter of being much firmer in asking people to pay part of their travel when being funded by the foundation, or to seek other funding elsewhere (from conference organisers, for example). I don't think that being funded by the foundation should be a due or a reward, foundation funds are an enabler.

I would like to see greater financial and administrative transparency. I don't see any reason why the foundation's gnucash file should be private, for example - and if there is, then at the very least there should be a quarterly financial update summarising everything that's happened in the last quarter. As a donor, I would like to know where my money is going, who's had travel funded, for what purpose, and so on. I want to know that we're planning to spend 15,000 on conference t-shirts so that I can say "hold on, I know a t-shirt supplier who might be cheaper - let me get a quote".

I want to see seven board members actively communicating, and I want to see the board be more reactive when a board member is inactive for long periods. There is no procedure for temporarily replacing an inactive board member, or if there is, it's never been activated.

In all my boards, there were 1 or 2 board members who just stopped reading (or at least replying to) board email for periods of months. I recall one particular occasion where a board member, during a face to face meeting, revealed that he hadn't read any of a thread which had been ongoing for 6 weeks on the mailing list, and asked everyone to wait while he pulled his mail and caught up. This year, at least looking at the attendance lists of the available minutes, it appears that Jeff was regularly missing meetings from March on, and he was replaced in early December. What happened in between? How about the other board members - how do you feel about your performance this year?

In short, I would like a board of which the community has the ear, working primarily to improve the social and financial condition of the project, and doing so in the most complete transparency possible. I would like not to have a board member who is so busy that they don't have time to blog, or ask for opinions here, or publish minutes & meeting agendas in a timely fashion.

I would like to see consultation happen in such an informal and regular fashion that we don't refer to questions from board members as "Requests for Comments", which make it sound like you have to polish content for an hour and "publish" the "document", going through board approval before you go public. I'd like to see the 7 most frequent posters here be the board members, on lots of topics, related to GUADEC, the Summit, hackfests, budget, marketing, Friends of GNOME (and I'd like to commend Stormy on the way she's been leading on this) and more.

I don't want to pick on anyone here - times change, boards too, but what I feel is that the board (any board) currently doesn't really know what its role is. Boards take themselves seriously, try to present a united front, don't fight in public, and publish/announce/... - in short, broadcast to the membership what they're working on. I would like us to move more towards a mode where most of the announcements coming out of the foundation are coming from the membership rather than the board, and where the entire foundation shares in the difficulties that the board has borne on their shoulders for the past few years. The GNOME project is small enough & intimate enough that we can talk freely, no?

The KDE eV solution to this is to make the foundation members list members-only (private archives) - should we consider doing the same thing, if that would allow more board business to be conducted on this list?


Dave Neary
GNOME Foundation member
dneary gnome org

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